QCOSTARICA – More than 100 illegal migrants are entering Costa Rica every day, looking for “coyotes” (smugglers) to take them across the Nicaraguan border and on to the United States, President Luis Guillermo Solis says.
Solis, said on the sidelines of United Nations General Assembly that 85% of the new arrivals were from Haiti by way of Brazil, where many settled after Haiti’s 2010 earthquake but whose construction jobs had disappeared now the Rio Olympics were over and the country wallowed in recession.
“The phenomenon has shifted quite significantly,” Solis said.
The Soils administration has set up centres that offer the migrants basic shelter and food on their arrival to Costa Rica at the Panama border, before they take the day-long bus trip through the country to the northern border with Nicaragua.
Nicaragua first refused Cuban migrants last October, a policy that continues and extends to all migrants who want to enter, forcing them in the hands of smugglers or illegal guides, often linked to criminal gangs and more often than not, scam the migrants by taking their money and then leave to their own means.
The President said the other 15% of arrivals were Cubans as well as African and Asians. Several months back many of the Haitians told immigration officials they were Africans to avoid being deported. Costa Rica is more tolerant of African migrants due to the distance to return them home, contributing to the high cost of deportation.
It is not the same with Haitians. In addition, the United States, in responding to a surge in Haitian immigrants, would end special protections for them dating back to the devastating 2010 earthquake, the Department of Homeland Security said on Thursday.
“Migration is a global phenomenon and it is not new. But something unexpected is happening, a refurbished flow of migrants is on the move in Latin America,” Solis said.
So far, Solis said, Costa Rica could handle the movement – inflow and outflow – of migrants passing through the country.
“What if they start deciding to stay on in Costa Rica after hearing that the United States has changed its tolerance policy and is going to start deporting them?” Solis said. “That’s a concern.”
More than 5,000 Haitians have entered the United States without visas this fiscal year, according to Department of Homeland Security officials, up from 339 in fiscal year 2015.
In February Michel Martelly stepped down as president of Haiti without a successor. New elections are scheduled for October 9.